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Rangers pounce on Braves rookie in first inning

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The Texas Rangers' hitters are making
things easy for Chan Ho Park, even when he struggles.

Park again got plenty of offensive support, winning his sixth
straight decision over 10 starts in the Rangers' 9-5 victory over
the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

The right-hander overcame a 40-pitch first inning, gave up just
one run despite allowing 12 baserunners in his five innings, and is
7-1 for the first time in his career.

"I like him going five innings and giving up one run," manager
Buck Showalter said. "He kept making pitches when he had to. Our
guys feed a little off his competitiveness, but there were some
long innings out there."

Alfonso Soriano and Kevin Mench had two-run doubles in the
Rangers' five-run first, when the first six batters reached against
rookie Kyle Davies (2-2). Soriano added a solo homer and another
RBI double.

Park went into the game getting 8.43 runs of support per start,
best in the major leagues. But he threw 40 pitches before the
Rangers even got to bat.

"It was tough, but I kept pitching," Park said. "There were
just two groundball base hits and two walks on 3-2 counts. One run
wasn't a big deal."

Plus, after 20 minutes on the mound, the offense gave Park
plenty of time to catch his breath.

Gary Matthews Jr. had a leadoff single before consecutive walks
and an RBI single by Hank Blalock tied the game 1-1. Soriano and
Mench, the next two batters, both had two-run doubles.

Davies allowed six runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings, and his
ERA increased from 1.86 to 3.45. He allowed just six runs over 29
innings his first five starts.

"He never got in a groove where he put the ball where he
wanted, and neither did Park," manager Bobby Cox said. "We let
him get away with it in the first inning. They didn't let us."

Park allowed eight singles, struck out three, walked three and
hit a batter in five innings against a batting order that included
six rookies. He threw 114 pitches before leaving with a 7-1 lead.

His seven wins are half his total of the past three seasons
(14-18) -- which began his $65 million, five-year contract with the
Rangers.

The first three Atlanta batters reached before Adam LaRoche's
comebacker, which Park deflected then had to scramble to get the
out while a run scored. After a walk reloaded the bases,
consecutive strikeouts finally ended the inning.

"You would like to think that with the bases loaded and no
outs, you'd score more than one run," LaRoche said. "We were
still feeling good, then they came back and put up a crooked
number."

Atlanta, which started seven rookies in a game for the first
time since Oct. 1, 1978, dropped its sixth straight series since
sweeping three games from the New York Mets on May 23-25.

Francisco Cordero, the fourth Texas pitcher, got the last three
outs for his 17th save in 20 chances. Atlanta used six pitchers.

Matthews had an RBI single in the third that chased Davies.

"I know I'll have ups and downs," said Davies, who has allowed
10 runs in two starts after just two runs over the first four. "I
know exactly what it was, not keeping the ball down and not
throwing a lot of strikes."

Soriano's 18th homer, a solo shot, came off Jorge Vasquez in the
fourth. His RBI double in the eighth capped the scoring.

The Braves got three unearned runs in the sixth after first
baseman Mark Teixeira's first error in 804 fielding chances over 88
games since September. Teixeira was unable to hold on to a throw
from reliever Brian Shouse on a comebacker.

A run scored on the play and LaRoche followed with a two-run
double. Wilson Betemit added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Game notes
Julio Franco was scratched from Atlanta's lineup because
the 46-year-old had a fever. Pete Orr took over as DH, and had
three singles. That also gave the Braves the most rookies in a
lineup since the finale of that 93-loss season in 1978. ... Rangers
SS Michael Young was 2-for-4, and is hitting .414 (48-for-116) over
28 games since May 13. ... Texas is 6-6 in interleague play;
Atlanta is 4-8.